Saturday 24 February 2018

'Big Jack' is the unifying force on a dull day at Aviva

Former Republic of Ireland manager Jack Charlton is introduced to the crowd before the game
Former Republic of Ireland manager Jack Charlton is introduced to the crowd before the game
Former Republic of Ireland Jack Charlton and his wife Pat alongside former Republic of Ireland player Paul McGrath in attendance at the game
FAI chief executive John Delaney kisses his partner Emma English while Sports Minister Paschal Donohoe watches the match between Ireland and England at the Aviva Stadium yesterday
England fans at the Aviva Stadium
Orla McEntaggart, Niamh Grace & Emer McEntaggart, going to the international Friendly Republic of Ireland vs England at Aviva Stadium
Kadin Coffey (7) from Portarlington, Co Laois, on his way to the game
Adam Cullen

Adam Cullen

It was a game that could have gone down in history for all the right or all the wrong reasons - instead it was a day to forget as Martin O'Neill's men ground out a dreary scoreless draw with the old enemy.

Not even the glorious Dublin sunshine could heat things up as the teams offered little more than a lukewarm performance.

The first meeting on Irish soil between Ireland and England since those repulsive scenes 20 years ago had both nations on their guard.

But the possibility of fireworks either on or off the pitch failed to ignite.

And so it was left to 'Big Jack' to lift the atmosphere at the Aviva Stadium.

It was a rare moment of unbridled unity as both sets of supporters stood to salute the 80-year-old - a World Cup hero on both sides of the Irish Sea.

On a day that offered little to remember, the image of the 1966 World Cup winner and Italia '90 coach will be a memory to cherish for those who flocked to Dublin 4 expecting more.

An emotional Charlton lingered on the red carpet, waving to the crowds, and bringing a sort of closure to that 1995 game that never reached a conclusion.

The scenes of mind-numbing violence we witnessed on a cold February night all those years ago were yesterday replaced with scenes of mind-numbing boredom as the teams played out a goalless draw.

The only entertainment on offer, and competition for that matter, came from the good-humoured jibes between fans.

The travelling English support had even some of the Irish contingent in stitches with their cries of "Sepp Blatter paid for your ground".

The response from the boys in green fans came from the south stand when they chanted that FAI boss John Delaney was "a w***er".

Then it was back to choruses of 'God Save the Queen' versus 'The Fields of Athenry'.

A very small section of the 3,000 travelling fans did attempt sectarian or anti-IRA songs but they were drowned out.

Former England midfielder turned ITV pundit Paul Scholes labelled the friendly stalemate "a waste of an afternoon" - a sentiment echoed by many fans.

Eoin Naughten from Clontarf said the match and atmosphere were lacking in excitement.

"It was terrible. There was no heart in it from either side. It was a really dull game. I am hoping the Scotland game will be better.

"Thank god for the fans, we were great. And the English fans were fine, sure the English are practically Irish these days," he said.

Patrick Byrne, who travelled to the capital for the match from Roscommon, said a goal would have lifted Irish spirits.

"We played well against a strong English side; they had a good showing of their stars, so all in all a dull enough but good result," he added.

Robert Hickey from Meath was less than forthcoming in his praise, branding the day a "complete bore".

That description suited the 400 gardaí on Dublin's streets just fine as the night passed off peacefully.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport